Benefits of Fasting

healthy foodIn over-fed America, fasting may seem a far-fetched idea. Why would anyone in their right mind want to starve themselves? The reasons are many and may surprise you. It is also a practice that has been practiced for thousands of years, and was often prescribed by the ancient physician, Hippocrates. A revolutionary physician known as Paracelsus, during the Middle Ages stated, “Fasting is the greatest remedy – the physician within.”

What is Fasting?

First of all, fasting has nothing to do with starving yourself. In its most basic form, fasting is abstaining from food and liquids other than water. There are different kinds of fasting, but the one thing they have in common is the exclusion of selected foods or liquids for a specific period of time.

In today’s modern world, the definition of fasting has been expanded to include different varieties of modified fasting. Modified fasting permits the addition of certain foods such as fruit juice or broth, or other healthy food. Technically, these are actually “diets.” They are sometimes called “detox diets,” “cleansing diets,” or even “fasting diets.” There are many shades of grey when it comes to fasting, cleansing and a regular diet.

In his book Fasting Can Save Your Life by Herbert Shelton, he states that fasting is 1695650382_989846bf18_zabstaining from food when a person has enough nutritional reserves to provide nourishment to vital organs. Starvation begins when a person’s reserves are exhausted and vital organs begin to suffer damage.

The Benefits of Fasting

Over the centuries, fasting has been encouraged as a way of healing many health problems, as well as providing mental benefits. The benefits of fasting are:

  • Allows for detoxification and cleansing of the body
  • Cleanses and heals “stuck” patterns of emotions
  • Rests the digestive system
  • Promotes mental clarity
  • Provides an increasing energy level and a feeling of physical lightness
  • Enhances spiritual connections and promotes inner peace

Many call fasting a “miracle cure” because it can be used to treat most any ailment, among them, arthritis, digestive disorders, allergies, cardiovascular disease, asthma and skin disorders.

The body becomes overworked with the constant influx of food, which takes energy to process. When we fast, that energy is turned to other processes in the body, such as healing. While fasting, the body does housecleaning and rids itself of toxins, repairs cells, and produces new healthy cells.

Doctor Gabriel Cousens, a doctor of psychiatry, family therapist and doctor of holistic medicine probably sums it up best. He speaks about observations he made during a study on fasting. He observed that after four days, the participants’ concentration and creative thinking appeared to improve, insomnia stopped, depression and anxiety lifted, and the mind became more calm and the spirit more joyful. He believed that the act of fasting allows the body to rid the brain of harmful toxins that inevitably leads to clearer thought processes.

The clearing of toxins from the body and the energy made available during fasting
allows the body to renew and heal itself.

Even a short, one day fast can be beneficial, but two or three days is more effective. You might try an apple fast over the weekend. Eat 3-4 apples each day and drink 2 quarts of water. During your fast, you may experience flu-like symptoms, as when you have the flu, your body is working to heal itself.

The body truly has the ability to heal itself when provided the opportunity. Your body can be its own internal medicine doctor through holistic medicine and integrative medicine practices. Achieving health and wellness takes work, but the benefits are priceless.

If you would like to learn more about holistic and integrative medicine, contact Dr. Jorge Bordenave at Miami Integrative Medicine and learn what a difference alternative treatments can make to your health and life.

Published by Axiom Health Care Marketing


What About Fasting?

balance dietFasting doesn’t always mean going without food for days. As part of a health and wellness program, your fasting could simply be 16 hours out of every 24. For eight hours, you eat a healthy diet, then for the next 16 hours, you don’t eat. Living in Little Havana or Key West, fasting can be done anywhere.

What’s the Point of Fasting?

ThaiFor many years, the recommendation to eat six or so small meals a day has been passed around liberally. The idea is that by constantly providing fuel for the body, it would be continually energized and calories would burn at an even pace, making weight loss easier.

Bad Advice

More recently, it is becoming clear that eating five to six small meals each day is not such good advice. Although the premise may sound good, it doesn’t work very well in practice. One of the reasons for this is that those extra meals usually ended up being an “energy bar” or some other such quick fix and not the fruit or vegetable concentration recommended or a meal prepared at home.

Many also took this advice to mean, “eat all the time,” which understandably led to overeating. It comes as no surprise then that the advice to eat five to six small meals has coincided with the increase of obesity rates in the U.S.

Trying the Opposite Approach

Instead of eating every few hours, the idea is to put more time between meals, even beyond the typical three meals a day scenario: this is known as intermittent fasting, or IF. Cultures all over the world have used fasting in various ways for centuries, one of them being the perceived health benefits.

Intermittent fasting can take many forms. Some prefer to limit food intake to a particular number of hours each day, such as an eight-hour window. Others prefer to fast for entire days. There are increasing research reports that have found that IF may have many benefits for health and longevity.

empty plate

Photo credit Noesis

Following a plan of intermittent fasting does not mean not eating one day and then binging the next. To reap the most benefits, IF means timing meals so that there are regular periods of fasting. For those trying to lose weight or some other health issues, IF can be a powerful tool. IF helps your body to shift from burning carbs/sugar to burning fat.

Is Fasting Healthy?

Is starving yourself a little each day, or for even a couple of days each week, a good idea? Accumulating evidence is indicating that yes, fasting can have beneficial health side effects.

Intermittent fasting requires that a person pay closer attention to their diet in order to obtain proper nutrition. This can include cutting carbs and substituting healthy fats such as olive oil, eggs, butter, nuts and avocados. Although it may take several weeks, the body will shift to burning fat and the desire for fast energy (carbs that turn into sugar) will disappear.

healthy mealIn a 2007 review conducted by the University of California, Berkley, concluded that fasting every other day might:

  • Decrease cancer risk
  • Lower diabetes risk
  • Decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Provide protection from some of the effects of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Yes, intermittent fasting can provide benefits to the brain. Research has shown that when the body begins to use fat for energy, fatty acids called ketones are released and these help to protect memory and learning. In addition, IF boosts the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which is a protein. Depending on the area of the brain, BDNF can experience a boost of 50 to 400 percent. Brain stem cells are activated by BDNF and they then convert into neurons, increasing neural health. The protein also protects brain cells from the changes that take place that are associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

So, what’s the point in fasting? Increasing evidence shows that it does have health benefits, and that’s reason enough. Before starting an intermittent fasting program, you should talk with your internal medicine doctor or cardiologist. IF can be considered complementary medicine or integrative medicine as part of a life centered on health and wellness.

Dr. Jorge Bordenave and his staff at Miami Integrative Medicine serve the communities of Coral Gables and South Miami, just to name a few. They would love for you to come in and learn how the holistic medicine approach to health care can benefit you. Call today for a consultation.

Published by Axiom Health Care Marketing


Images: 6 meals Julio Biason credit